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Going All Out to Make Punjab a Startup Hub Pramod Bhasin launches IMPunjab as an open source platform for startups

By Deepa Vaidya

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Pramod Bhasin

Pramod Bhasin, Chairman Innovation Mission Punjab (IMPunjab) set out on a mission and is striving to make Punjab a hub for start-ups in the country. Says Bhasin, "I had conceived this idea some time ago and gone to the previous government, suggesting that we should build a public-private partnership where if the government is able to provide funding, we can actually build the team and run this from the private sector."

In comparison to his early years in America, and the situation now, Bhasin says, "We are the third largest in number of startups in the world. But is it having that profound impact on jobs and investments, in India? Not yet? Is it producing world beating companies? Not yet, but it's close. Doing Business in America is fantastic. I don't think most people who work in India, and have never witnessed that, can even begin to imagine how easy it is."

Reminiscing about the challenges Bhasin says, "Many issues still exist. Doing business in India remains hard. But money is freely available, mentors are freely available, and the entire culture of risk taking changes. My belief has always been that Indians don't take risks. We are not the entrepreneurs, the global entrepreneurs, and even our companies, very few of them are global in any truly global meaningful way."

"As for Punjab/India, the governments have not cared enough about business and entrepreneurship. I don't think they've paid enough attention to it or they've tried, and so missed out on the start-up boom."

"But now I think those days are now beginning to happen where we are seeing a flurry of young start-ups who have guts, with the risk-taking ability. We are backed by money, which allows them to do this. I think that will change the face of entrepreneurship across India."

"We want to encourage entrepreneurship and help good start-ups scale and bring to them the things that they miss, which is why they go everywhere else."

He adds, "It's funding that they seek and go looking for. If you have a good idea, you will get money. We bring them the best Indian and global mentors. We bring advisors to help open markets in particular segments, and we bring industry specialists from those in agri-tech, biotech, life sciences, financial inclusion and technology to help them scale."

"For those looking to scale, we will connect them with investors; set up an INR 100- INR 150 crore fund; enlist the support of the government and hope to get the support of many other investors too."

"We will build virtual incubators and accelerators across Punjab. We want to do this in every major college campus that has courses or material available on entrepreneurship, is working on start-ups and is working with teams."

"Located in Kalkat Bhavan, the accelerator is a vibrant, state-of-the-art hub with 12,000 sqft. of contemporary workspace and offers a 400-seater Auditorium, a 2-level networking area, activity zones and meeting rooms," adds Bhasin about the accelerator.

"Our job is not to just run a small accelerator. It is well past the accelerator, and to do this on a virtual basis. So, we would also love to help all these accelerators improve."

"With the launch of physical space, the Mission is also commencing its first accelerator program to provide deep support to the top 16 startups of Punjab and make them investment-ready".

"Honestly, our role is not to be proprietorial, we are completely open source, whatever we have is available to anybody else who wants it. Whatever access or assets we bring to the table, again, are available for anyone. But our aim is to spread the message."

One of Bhasin's ideas to get investors to Punjab is to "Appeal to the media in Mumbai to come and work with us and help set this up. I will work with the global diaspora to say, "Look, there's something special here in our state and we owe it money in the past."

On the mission's impact, Bhasin says, "In the 1.5 years since it was started, we have registered about an unprecedented 600 start-ups. There are many other start-ups working in Artificial Intelligence, EVs, food, agriculture, food products, education and in financial inclusion too. In all of them, we will see technology play out quite well."

As a co-founder of two entrepreneurial ventures and now as the Chairman of IMPunjab, what are his top 3 learnings for today's entrepreneurs on building a global enterprise and taking it public.

Says Bhasin, "One needs to be clear, simple and specific in their approach towards the customers that they want to serve, the markets that they want to cater to. You should always think of scaling up and build something which can scale globally. Lastly, money always follows, if you have potential. So don't chase after the money."

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